Monday, August 1, 2011

The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young

Published July 26, 2011.

Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes. But for seventeen-year-old Dani Solomon, strange thoughts have taken over her life. She loves Alex, the little boy she babysits, more than anything. But one day, she has a vision of murdering him that's so gruesome, she can't get it out of her mind. In fact, Dani's convinced that she really will kill Alex. She confesses the thoughts to keep him safe, setting off a media frenzy that makes "Dani Death" the target of an extremist vigilante group.

Through the help of an uncoventional psychiatrist, Dani begins to heal her broken mind. But will it be too late? The people of her community want justice . . . and Dani's learning that some thoughts are better left unsaid.

For the first seventy pages or so the story actually ambled along a bit slowly for my taste. After my first sitting I was wondering when the story would get to the point. For that first chunk that I read, it was just set-up for Dani but it was really schizophrenic. Not in a character sense but in a story sense. The plot was just all over the place and I was left wondering when it would all come together and I'd get to see something that resembled the blurb.

But not long after that the plot rolled over the hill and just kept tumbling down. The second Dani opened her mouth about her thoughts everything just catapulted. I was so engrossed in the plot to the point that I wanted to write an editorial to the paper in the book stating how horrible and sheep-like the townsfolk were for treating Dani the way they did.

I don't think this is a book just about OCD but I think it's about the greater lynch-mob-mentality that people have a tendency of getting. Instead of listening to reason, and seeing sense, people just hop on the bandwagon and convict of their own accord. I was truly frightened for Dani. I honestly didn't know how the story was going to end up with all of the crazy vigilante action going on.

OCD is a disabling disease and it's not always about the germs. I'm glad Young tackled the issue from a different perspective instead of going to a failsafe standard route for OCD. I don't think the kinds of thoughts that Dani has are all that abnormal. I really don't. I don't think we're all latent serial killers or anything but I do think things like murder poke at our deepest morbid curiosity. When we have these thoughts, we tend to just file them away because they are so horrifying. But what if you don't have that kind of control? What if those thoughts take up your day? Starting changing the way you act and your routine? Convince you that you're actually dangerous?

I'm not sure I understand why Dani took the approach she did and told the person she did. It didn't seem like a wise move from any vantage point. I would have liked to have seen a little more of the why behind Dani choosing the person she did to unload upon. It definitely would have cleared up some of my confusion but it definitely exacerbated her problem instead of fixing it. Gotta love those plot bunnies!

The way the story is structured it makes for a really quick read but at the same time the story will suck you in so thoroughly that you'll plow through it anyway. Young wrote it in such a way that Dani was truly sympathetic and despite everything going on around her you were rooting for her. Did she have murderous thoughts? Yes. But nothing is what it seems and you can never listen to rumors.

I loved how the most unexpected people stuck by Dani's side and those that you thought should wavered a bit. It was shocking to see people's real personalities come out in the face of something like this. It's really telling. But it made the story all the richer and realistic. It could happen. Why not? How many people are suffering from OCD on a daily basis? You don't know what anyone's thinking until they tell you. And then what would you do?

Up there in line with A BLUE SO DARK, THE BABYSITTER MURDERS is a poignant look into a mind sick with OCD and a girl's struggle to fix it. You'll get sucked in and go on Dani's bumpy, and frightening, ride with her. You'll want to root for her and hope to whatever god you believe in that she'll turn out okay. You'll probably be disgusted with the way the majority of the townsfolk reacted and maybe you'll feel like me and want to write an editorial to tell them just how crappy they are. It's a book about help and hope and it showcases that if you have the right support system, regardless of what's going on around you, you can make it through. I loved it.

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